I have two dogs. Both of them have an internal monologue that can be summed up as "duuuuur," but one is definitely smarter than the other. The smarter dog, an English Springer Spaniel called Tucker, won't remember that he has a head and will often ram said head into stationary objects, then act surprised and affronted at the pain his lack of consideration has caused. However, he's intellectually leaps and bounds above our younger dog, Sampson, a Beagle mix.
Sampson is... special. His hobbies are licking fabric (anything from the pants you're wearing to the furniture to the dirty laundry) and being hopelessly in love with me. When I'm gone for "too long", a period of time determined not by any chronological common sense but measured by Sampson's desire to be near me and anxiety that I will never return, he eats my clothing or tissues I've blown my nose in or pens off my desk. When he's not busy worrying over whether I'll ever return, he's either sleeping on or near me, or just sitting at my feet and gazing up at me longingly. As you might guess, I don't generally get a lot of alone time. A real problem arises when Sampson is in a different room than I am, and notices it. And this is the topic of my story today.
Last night, I was in my office, like I usually am. My office is off the living room, and has large french doors with long windows in them. There's another door at the back of my office that leads to our back hall and connects to the kitchen and bathroom. For the purposes of this post, I've made a handy graphic outlining the floor plan of our ground floor:
As you can see, Sampson is in the living room, and I am in my office. Since the sound of the television in the living room is distracting to me, I had closed the french doors to my office. But my office, being the only room on the first floor that doesn't gravity feed to the upstairs, gets insanely hot if I don't leave the back door open. So, marked in red on the above graphic is the path Sampson would have to take to get into my office.
The first time this scenario took place, I gave Sampson some leeway. I'm sure it's a difficult concept for dogs: the thing you want is right there, and the most direct path is blocked. Trying to get beyond the initial dog-mind panic, "I want it! It's right there! Why can't I get it?" in order to overcome the obstacle takes time. For Tucker, it was simply a matter of looking through the french doors, seeing that the back door was open, and taking that path of red x's. For Sampson, it went somewhat differently.
At the time, my cousin D-Rock and I were sitting in my office. D-Rock said something to the effect of, "That dogs is so fucking stupid. He's never going to figure it out." I countered with, "No, he'll get it eventually. Probably take him a while, though." Sure enough, thirty minutes later, Sampson wandered away from the french doors and eventually made it through the back door. But D-Rock was unconvinced. "He probably just went into the kitchen and heard us talking from the hallway, and was like, 'Oh, what's this down here?' He didn't mean to actually get in this way."
I'm afraid she might be right, because last night, the same thing happened. So, there I was, sitting in my office, being generally awesome, and Sampson realizes that he's been separated from me. I'm pretty lazy, and once I get comfortable, that's it. I'm done. I'm not getting up for anything, unless the chair is on fire or something. I put up with Sampson's whining for a little bit, but eventually he decided to charge the glass. That was when something had to be done.
I tried to put my hand up to my mouth and whistle, directing the sound to the back door. Since dogs have such awesome hearing, I thought this would clue him in to the alternate route. No dice. I made direct eye contact and pointed at the open door. "See? Come in the back way!" I shouted through the glass. This just made Sampson more frantic. My son, thinking he could help the situation, went to the kitchen and called Sampson, then tried to direct him down the hall. Sampson just became confused and raced back to the living room, where he collided with the doors. My son decided to open the french doors and let him in.
Sampson was all settled in at my feet when my husband went to the kitchen to make dinner. The sound of food being exposed and touched and possibly dropped was too much for Sampson, who shot out the back door of my office, down the hall into the kitchen. But my husband shooed him out... into the dining room. Sampson wanted back in my office. So he ran to the french doors in the living room and we repeated the frantic whining. This time, though, my son wasn't there to let him in, and so he had to become more resourceful.
Sampson needed a plan. When my husband unhelpfully scolded him for trying to dig under the doors, Sampson revised his thinking somewhat. Hey, wasn't there a secondary way to access the office? Yes! It would be tricky, but he could manage it. He would get into my office and be with me and all would be well once more.
Unfortunately, his path to the office was not a straight one. First, he ran up the stairs. Then, he sniffed around the dining room. By the time he finally got into my office, I had gone through the french doors, into the living room, and closed them behind me. Our places were switched. And now, Sampson couldn't get out. Though he'd just entered the office through the back door, he could no longer remember its existence. Somehow, diabolical forces had trapped him in this hellish room, still separated from my by those infernal french doors.
Now, I'm not saying that dogs should be exactly as smart as humans. Dogs in general can only be "smart, for a dog". That doesn't make the dumb ones less worthy of love and good treatment. I'm just saying that if Sampson was a human, he would be your boss. And every night you'd go home and you'd wonder how he got to be your boss, when he's so stupid. And every night, when you left work, he would be wandering around the office, desperately trying to find his way out.